Coventry City headed into the New Year comfortably in mid-table with hopes of going on a 2 or 3 game winning streak to reignite the club’s play-off hopes after a difficult 6 weeks. The New Year also meant the opening of the January Transfer Window, it seemed likely that right-back Cyrus Christie would be sold to a Championship rather than be let go on a free in the summer. There were rumours linking Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke with moves elsewhere but there were many that were confident that the feel-good mood around the club would be enough for the duo to continue their partnership until at least the end of the season. Mainly, Coventry City fans were hoping to see additions to the squad rather than departures with Celtic youngster Dylan McGeouch the most heavily rumoured player on the club’s radar.
A trip to Rotherham’s New York Stadium seemed like a steep ask for the side’s rebuilding confidence on New Year’s Day. After being thoroughly outplayed yet again by the Millers, the Sky Blues somehow made it into the break just one goal down. The second half saw the team play closer to the level expected of them, however it wasn’t until Craig Morgan was sent off for Rotherham and Carl Baker scored the resulting penalty did Coventry ever look like taking something from the fixture. A goal that was later credited to Cyrus Christie from a corner gave Coventry the lead and the win was sealed by Carl Baker’s trickling effort which eventually rolled over the goal-line with the Rotherham keeper going forward for a last-minute corner. The win proved to be a costly one for the team with Callum Wilson suffering a shoulder injury that was set to keep him out for two months.
Coventry City continued their run of playing poorly in the first-half and improving in the second with a win in the FA Cup third round over Barnsley. Goals from Franck Moussa and Leon Clarke sealed a victory that eventually earned the club a glamour tie away at Arsenal in the fourth round.
As the club entered what seemed to be a straightforward fixture at ‘home’ to Crawley Town there was a sense that the club was rebuilding the form that it had lost since drawing against Bradford. Steven Pressley made an intriguing team selection with Jordan Clarke called in to play as a striker alongside Franck Moussa with Leon Clarke apparently missing through injury. Throughout the game, which saw Coventry drop two points by conceding two goals in the final 7 minutes of the game, there were rumours that Leon Clarke had handed in a transfer request to force through a move to his former club Wolves. These fears were confirmed by an official club statement confirming the rumours of Clarke’s desire to leave.
The inevitable had finally seemed to have happened, Coventry City were now unable to keep their star players as a result of the move to Northampton. Pressley seemed determined to keep Leon Clarke involved with the first-team until he actually did leave and the club were making noises about wanting to make sure that they got the best possible price. In Clarke’s next appearance for the Sky Blues he didn’t seem to be playing any better or worse as a result of his transfer request as Franck Moussa’s late goal won a point against a tough Preston side.
Ahead of the club’s big fixture against Arsenal the following Friday Leon Clarke remained available for selection. Coventry fans travelling to the game saw the fixture as an opportunity to raise awareness of the club’s plight in front of the global media. The game itself saw the team struggle to adjust to the quality of their opponents with Arsenal running out 4-0 victors without really breaking into a sweat. The protest, which involved raising banners which said ‘Why?’ and ‘When?’, was much more of a success and did raise attention of the club’s situation in a memorable manner.
The cup tie proved to be Leon Clarke’s final game in a Coventry shirt as he refused to play as the club faced a difficult away trip at Leyton Orient. Teenage striker George Thomas was called up to first-team duty and put in as good a performance as you could expect from a 16-year-old playing as a lone striker. The team lost 2-0 in a fairly abject performance overall.
As transfer deadline day approached the team was in desperate need of reinforcements as Leon Clarke eventually got his move to Wolves. However the club seemed reluctant to invest in permanent signings, instead going for a multitude of loan players with midfielder Dylan McGeouch, strikers Nathan Delfouneso and Rory Donnelly were all brought in as the transfer window closed. Mark Marshall, back in professional football after a drugs-related ban, was also signed just a day after the closing of the transfer window.
Still fans were optimistic that the reinforcements signed would help boost morale in a side that had been ailing with a number of injuries and losses of form over the past month. The Tuesday night win over Bristol City seemed to augur well for the final months of the season with Franck Moussa and Andy Webster on the scoresheet in a fairly comfortable 2-1 victory at Ashton Gate.
However the noise from the training ground didn’t seem to be entirely optimistic, loanee Rory Donnelly had terminated his loan spell with the club after a single training session. With Callum Wilson injured and Nathan Delfouneso seemingly struggling for fitness it left the club without any match-fit strikers for the next few games. A shocking performance against Notts County ensued with the Magpies running out comfortable 3-0 victors. A mid-week loss against Carlisle was only notable for the loan additions of Chuba Akpom and Michael Petrasso making their debuts in attack. The club continued this poor run of form with another loss at lowly Tranmere which saw the club suffer the ignominy of having loanee Chuba Akpom choosing to play youth-team football rather than with Coventry City.
Having seemed like being able to challenge for the play-offs at the beginning of the month, the team was now just a couple of defeats away from slipping into the bottom 4. The club had failed to adequately replace Leon Clarke in the side, seemingly unprepared and having no immediate replacements for the striker lined up prior to January. It seemed like we panicked in the transfer market and signed anyone available rather than properly scouting players to see how they would fit into the first-team. Steven Pressley had tried to play the same system as when he had Clarke in the team, one which left the team exposed at the back. The fixture against Shrewsbury seemed vital in stopping the rot that had set in over the past few months at the club.
The team was boosted for that game with the return of Callum Wilson to the side but Pressley selected a defensive line-up with Jordan Willis and Jordan Clarke playing the full-back positions ahead of the more attacking Cyrus Christie and Blair Adams. The 0-0 result vindicated Pressley’s selection in that it prevented another sloppy defeat but the team left a lot to be desired in a game where Shrewsbury created the better opportunities. However the game proved to be a platform for a 2-1 victory over Walsall which saw Wilson and Delfouneso on the scoresheet with the team looking like they had turned the corner.